Lorca turned me on to the idea. Gabriel García Lorca is Spain’s most famous poet and playwright. His Romancero Gitano is one of those books that mark your life: you remember where and when you first read it; the images of the poems stick in your mind forever.
Lorca is also famous internationally for his plays. I remember seeing The House of Bernarda Alba in an eighties television production. I did not know much about Lorca at the time. I did not even know that he was gay. In fact, it seems a bit strange to be using the word “gay” with Lorca, because he was homosexual at a time before gay culture existed. I’ll return to that in a moment: it is one of the reasons I want to read “gay plays in the mountains”. The play grabbed me: the collapse of the fierce control of Bernarda under the pressure of violent natural urges; everything conveyed in the simplest language. The play had all the power of classical tragedy with a hot wire of modern electricity running through it.
If the play is that good, why lump it together with other gay plays? Why stick Lorca together with other playwrights whose only apparent connection is their sexuality? Isn’t lumping writers together like this what activists would call a “vindication of hetero-normativity”, a grouping together of the “others”? I am sure this is what Teresa Moure, who we will also be reading, might say. Her book Queeremos Un Mundo Novo talks with exasperation about categories such as “women’s writing” or “homosexual literature.” Does “men’s writing” or heterosexual literature” even exist as a category?
Well, I guess I could be shot down in flames by activists, but the attempt is a sincere one at least. What I want to do with Gay Plays in the Mountains, is read the texts and then see if there are any conclusions to come to. As always here, there is no teacher. The only prescription is that the readings have to be continuous and the conversations have to come afterwards. As with Shakespeare in the Mountains, the idea is that reading texts back-to-back will give the readers the opportunity to discover parallels and cross-relationships.
In this series we are going to read:
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers
Gabriel García Lorca, The House of Bernarda Alba
Joe Orton, Loot
Teresa Moure, Benquerida Catástrofe
They are all worth reading irrespective of the sexualities of their authors and it may be that we will come to the conclusion that the grouping is arbitrary. The intention, however, is to see where the readings will take us because, pace Mouro, if we are queering a new world, there is something happening that is worth paying attention to.
I was born in 1965. Attitudes have changed dramatically since then. I was recently walking the Camino de Santiago from Portugal with a gay man who was heavily involved in the gay culture of California in the seventies, eighties and nineties. “Oh, it has all changed,” Randy said. “That gay culture is fading away and there are lots of people who criticize us for being out there with our sexuality. We have stopped being the oppressed and sometimes we are even accused of being the oppressors. Yes, things have changed a lot.”
This is why I want to group gay plays together. Homosexuality is a part of life. Gay culture has not always been so and, if Randy is right, it might be disappearing as we speak. I am interested in the movement from Oscar Wilde, through Lorca and Genet, to Orton and Moure. I am interested because it seems that there is something to celebrate here and perhaps something to mourn in its passing, even if we are creating a broader and more tolerant world.
What do you think?
Gay Plays in the Mountains will be a summer group: August 20-26, 2017.